Eight Bells: Latham Bell
Published on May 8th, 2017
The sport of sailing lost a significant contributor and competitor with the passing of Latham Bell, 53, who was in an auto collision on May 4 after suffering a brain aneurysm in Long Beach, CA. He passed on May 5.
Bell, born and raised in Long Beach, was a well-known waterman in town, having previously served as staff commodore at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club. He spent decades volunteering with the yacht club and teaching young sailors the ropes. He also served as a judge in international sailing competitions.
“To say that Latham will be missed is indeed an understatement,” said ABYC Commodore Chuck Clay.
Bell was also a popular teacher at Bixby Elementary School and an assistant swim coach at Wilson High School. At time of the accident, Bell was on his way to a Wilson swim meet where the team would win a state record 45th consecutive Moore League swim championship, the longest-ever streak in any sport in California.
“It’s been a wide spectrum of emotion,” said Wilson head coach Eric Berg. “He’s one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. He was always there with a helping hand. He was a father, grandfather, mentor to a lot of kids.”
Bell’s shouts at the start of a swimming races had become a familiar and comforting part of the historic program. “Latham had a booming voice and a huge heart that he dedicated to the Wilson aquatics community,” said Wilson water polo coach Jeff Nesmith.
Longtime friend Stacy Massey notes how Bell’s character was evident at an early age.
“My parents enrolled me in sailing classes at the age of 6,” she recalled. “Requirements were that we could swim across Basin 5 in Alamitos Bay. I’d been swimming since I was younger but this ‘across the basin thing’ kinda had my nerves on edge.
“Up walks this overly friendly kid named Latham Bell. Grabs me by the shoulders and says, ‘You can do this … we’ll do it together.’
“Thus started a friendship of over 50 years. Latham was a gentleman of the highest order. He was considerate beyond words and would have not only given you the shirt off his back, but would have driven home to grab a few more for you. Lath always put others before himself … ALWAYS!”
Bell leaves behind his parents Susan and Richard Bell, siblings Bryant and Katie, and children Richard and Gentry.
A Celebration of Life will be held on June 4 at 3:00PM at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club in Long Beach, CA.